Jan 17

Daniel Murphy Not Concerned

So, Daniel Murphy told ESPN he’s not concerned that the Mets haven’t signed a major league free agent, and like David Wright, is satisfied with the club’s direction.

Well, what else did you expect him to say?

MURPHY: GM in training.

Murphy, the man without a position stuck at second base, isn’t in position to rock the boat. The arbitration-eligible Murphy banged the drum for Scott Hairston and Chris Young, both of whom would fill needs but not necessarily raise the Mets to the next level.

Murphy sounded like a Sandy Alderson groupie when he said “we don’t want to get quite get sucked into maybe some of the prices that are going on right now for outfield.’’

In other words, forget about re-signing Hairston, who is asking for $8 million over two years. The Mets aren’t enamored by either the years or dollars. Put it this way, Hairston is asking for $4 million in 2013. In comparison, the anticipated outfield as of now in Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Mike Baxter might not make $2 million combined.

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Jan 16

Soriano Has Nationals Thinking Title In NL East

Not that the bullpen-needy Mets would have made a play for Rafael Soriano anyway, but the Washington Nationals’ acquisition of the Yankees’ 2012 insurance policy has them as the sexy pick to win the NL East.

It isn’t as if they needed much make-up after winning 98 games last season, but Soriano strengthens an already strong bullpen stronger. For his $28-million, two-year deal, Soriano will close, but the Nationals also have Drew Storen – their once closer-in-waiting – and Tyler Clippard, who saved 32 games last year, for late in the game.

The Mets, the only team not to sign a free-agent this winter, kicked the tires on Brian Wilson, who after Tommy John surgery, would be a gamble. Their closer is Frank Francisco, who ended last season with arm problems.

The Nationals’ manager, Davey Johnson, is adept at juggling a bullpen, although he was helpless as his pen blew a six-run lead to the Cardinals in Game 5 of the NL Division Series. That might have been the gnawing feeling that prompted them to sign Soriano.

The Nationals already upgraded with the acquisitions of starter Dan Haren and outfielder Denard Span. Washington also expects Stephen Strasburg to work at least 200 innings. Perhaps they learned from last summer’s mistake and will pace him out better.

Washington alienated a lot of people last year when they shut-down Strasburg, giving the impression they’ll make the playoffs every season. It’s not that easy, and the Nationals are showing that with what they’ve done this winter. One thing for sure, they won’t be a surprise this year.

The Braves won’t have Chipper Jones, but added outfielder B.J. Upton to their offense. They won 94 games last summer.

Philadelphia added outfielder Ben Revere and expect to have Ryan Howard and Chase Utley for the entire season. They should better last year’s 81 wins.

It appears the Mets will be competing with Miami to stay out of the cellar, but you already knew that, didn’t you?

That Nationals are building the right way, with a mix of drafting, trades and free-agent signings. With today’s economics, a team must be strong at all three phases, which the top three teams in the NL East have shown.

The Mets are putting their eggs in the farm-system basket, which is traditionally the way to go, and still is the foundation. However, they don’t have all the farm pieces to go the whole route, as they can’t fill out their roster with them or use them to trade.

The Mets also don’t have major league pieces they can trade without opening up additional holes.

As far as free-agency is concerned, they are balking on giving Scott Hairston – who hit 20 homers for them last year – a two-year deal.

The last time they had a good mix was 2007, the summer they blew a seven-game lead with 17 to play. They also blew a late lead in 2008, the last time they had a winning season.

That seemed like such a long time ago.

Jan 15

Jon Niese Could Be Most Indispensable Met

Normally, I might say David Wright when it comes down to who might be the most indispensable Met this season. Wright is, after all, the center of the Mets’ offensive universe and when he’s hitting it elevates the entire team.

However, I’m a pitching guy first and when I posed the question to myself this morning Jon Niese popped up as the answer.

NIESE: Needs breakout year.

With the trade of R.A. Dickey to Toronto and Johan Santana entering his walk year coming off another injury, Niese, despite a career-high 13 wins last year, is the No. 1 starter.

Dillon Gee is a health question and the No. 5 starter is anybody’s guess, so it comes down to the necessity of Niese having to pitch well every fifth day to minimize the losing streaks, which will happen as they do every year. It was Dickey who kept the Mets on an even keel last summer; Niese must now do the same.

The Mets always liked Niese, as evidenced by the long-term contract they gave him and refusal to discuss him in trade talks. When teams call the Mets, they ask for Niese, a hard-throwing lefthander, with major league success and a manageable contract.

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Jan 14

What Would A Successful 2013 Look Like For Mets?

Here we are, a month away from spring training, and really last summer’s collapse doesn’t seem that far away.

The winter is for expectations, grandiose in some cities that fell short last year and tepid in others. In Flushing, what would a successful season look like?

On paper, it’s not even close, the Mets aren’t as good as they were when the season ended with them 14 games under .500. And, they were struggling to get that kind of record.

Let’s look at the progress they’ve made:

* Their Cy Young Award winning 20-game winner, R.A. Dickey was traded for prospects – one of which is coming off back and knee injuries, which aren’t good for a catcher – at least two years away.

* Another starter, Dillon Gee, is a health issue, as is their $25 million investment in Johan Santana. That makes Jon Niese, with a career-high 13 victories, their de facto ace.

* There have been no significant additions to a “Let’s-see-what-they-can-do’’ outfield. I guess it is better by the subtraction of Jason Bay, who’ll hit at least 20 homers for Seattle (Who can’t feel that?).

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